Advertising is both an art and a science.

The art of advertising involves crafting meaningful messages to send to your prospects and customers and connect with them on a human level. The science, on the other hand, is enabled by the abundance of data available to us today.

Data tells you how to serve the right messages to the right audiences at the right times — and although it may be tempting to push your ads out to as many people as possible, sometimes the smartest move you can make as an advertiser is to harness more advanced audience targeting.

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”

In the world of advertising, saying the wrong thing at the wrong time can be a costly mistake.

That’s where the advanced audience targeting tactic of suppression comes in.

What is Audience Suppression?

Suppression is an advanced audience targeting tactic that involves removing specific people or groups from your ad campaigns. By reducing the amount of repetitive or irrelevant ads you serve to your customers, you can improve your brand reputation, increase campaign effectiveness, and, most importantly, eliminate wasteful ad spend.

In other words, if you’re paying to put ads in front of people, then you want to make sure you’re not putting those ads in front of people who never would have converted in the first place. Audience suppression can help you avoid wasting precious ad spend on unqualified prospects or damaging customer relationships with irrelevant messages.

For advertisers with limited media budgets, audience suppression is key for improving the return-on-investment of your customer acquisition strategy.

But how do you actually use audience suppression to save money? Here are 6 practical suppressions to get you started.

6 Ways to Use Audience Suppression to Reduce Ad Spend and Increase ROI

1. Suppress frequent buyers from branded search.

When a recurring customer searches for your brand on Google, it’s usually pretty safe to assume that they’re looking for your website.

We call these “lazy clickers.” Rather than typing www.brandname.com into their browser and going to your website directly, they type Brand Name into Google and click on the link to your website from there.

If you have a unique enough brand name (and if these are recurring buyers who, presumably, visit your website quite often), then your website will almost always be the top organic search listening in these types of searches — so why waste money by serving these people paid ads?

Using a customer data platform (CDP), you can define an audience of your most loyal customers and feed that audience into Google’s suppression list for branded searches. You know they’re going to visit your website via organic search anyway, so it doesn’t make sense to bid on them with paid ads.

Now, you might be thinking: Branded search yields a great ROI for my ad spend. Why would I suppress it at all?

That’s a good point, but the reality is that paying to serve ads to these customers is a false economy that will harm you more than it will help you in the long run. Anyone typing your brand name into Google is actively searching for your website and will land on it organically. If these people have also purchased from your company a number of times before, you can feel confident that they’re going to find your company and purchase from you again on their own.

The best part? You can use the money you saved from suppressing this audience to serve ads to new and infrequent customers, improving your customer acquisition strategy and, ultimately, generating more revenue for your business.

2. Suppress recent buyers from product ads.

Let’s say you just bought a new pair of jeans from your favorite brand.

Presumably, you’re no longer in the market for that same pair of jeans and won’t be for a certain period of time. Wouldn’t it be annoying if the company continued to serve you ads for the same pair of jeans in the days and weeks following your purchase?

Many brands have always-on targeting campaigns for certain products. But when you serve product ads to customers who have recently purchased that product, you:

  • Waste your ad spend on customers who aren’t likely to convert
  • Damage customer relationships and create a negative association with your brand
  • Miss the opportunity to serve more relevant ads to recent buyers and encourage repeat purchases

If you can identify which customers have recently purchased that product, then you can choose to suppress those recent buyers from product campaigns and improve the overall ROI of your advertising. A CDP can help you easily identify and suppress these audiences (and avoid risking both financial and reputational damage to your brand).

Plus, you can redirect that saved cost into developing more relevant, targeted ad campaigns to acquire new customers and increase the value of your existing customer base.

3. Suppress existing customers from social lookalike audiences.

With nearly 3.5 billion active social users as of 2019 — and new users joining every day — it’s no surprise that social media is an attractive platform for advertisers. Social media channels are ripe with opportunity and they do tend to be highly effective tools for customer acquisition.

One common advanced audience targeting strategy for customer acquisition via social channels is creating “lookalike” audiences of prospects who resemble your highest-value customers. For example, if your data tells you that highly-educated, middle-aged women in the US tend to become frequent buyers of a particular product, then you could serve targeted social ads to audiences with those same characteristics.

But here’s the problem: That lookalike audience will include existing customers as well. Without an effective suppression list, you’ll end up wasting ad spend on customers who are already making frequent, high-value purchases on their own.

Instead, you can use your CDP to create an audience of existing customers and suppress that audience from receiving your lookalike ads. That way, you ensure you’re targeting only net-new customers to make the best use of your ad budget and reap the best results from your campaign.

4. Suppress prospects from sweepstakes audiences.

Sweepstakes or contests are great ways to build your email database and acquire new customers, because it not only attracts new prospects with the hype but also requires them to provide their contact information and opt into marketing messages from your brand.

For example, if your company sells ski gear, then you might do a sweepstakes where prospects can win a free skiing outfit for everyone in their family. In that case, you’d want to create an audience that looks like high-value customers who’ve purchased family ski gear. Then, you’ll target lookalike prospects to encourage them to enter their emails for the chance to win.

Whether they win the prize or not, these prospects are now in your email database and you can continue marketing to them with the goal of eventually converting them into customers.

However, advertisers run into the same problem here as they do in #3: These lookalike audiences will include existing customers who are already in your email database. When that happens, you end up paying for these customers to re-enter your email database and eat into the overall ROI of your campaign.

By using your CDP to suppress existing customers from your sweepstakes campaign, you can save money and ensure that your ad spend is being put to good use.

5. Suppress churned customers from customer audiences.

Did you know that the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60–70 percent, whereas the probability of selling to a new customer is only 5–20 percent?

Retaining and upselling your existing customers can be a huge source of continued revenue growth for your business — and executing targeted customer marketing campaigns is the best way to tap into this source.

However, you don’t want to market to customers who have churned or are unlikely to purchase from you again.

Some CDPs, like Lexer’s, include predictive customer lifetime value algorithms that analyse customer behavior and tell you things like:

  • Their likelihood of purchasing other products
  • How frequently they’re going to purchase in the next 12 months
  • How much they’re likely to spend in the future
  • Their likelihood of churning or never purchasing from your company again

That last point is key. If a customer is unlikely to purchase from you again, do you really want to waste your media spend by serving them cross-sell and upsell ads?

No — use your CDP to suppress churned audiences from your customer marketing campaigns and save your budget for your lapsed or inactive customers who still have a chance of converting in the future.

6. Send fewer impressions to low-value customer groups.

The 80/20 rule, or the Pareto Principle, suggests that about 80 percent of any company’s revenue will come from only about 20 percent of the customer base; this is especially true for luxury brands with highly affluent customer bases.

While your brand may not follow this rule to a T (mid-market brands, for example, might find that 20 percent of customers only make about 50 or 60 percent of their sales), there will always be certain customers who have a greater capacity and desire to spend than others.

These high-value customer segments are great candidates for customer marketing campaigns. On the other hand, marketing to low-value customer segments may take up more time, money and effort than it’s worth.

Using a CDP, you can segment these audiences based on their historical and predicted lifetime value and then adjust the amount you’re willing to spend on each audience. This way, you can spend a bit less on your low-value customers and focus a bit more on your high-value customers for a greater return.

Why You Need a Customer Data Platform (CDP) to Harness Advanced Audience Targeting

Segmenting and suppressing certain audiences can help you:

  • Reduce wasteful ad spend on irrelevant or unqualified audiences
  • Optimise your customer acquisition strategy
  • Increase the value and satisfaction of your existing customer base
  • Accelerate revenue growth for your company

But despite these benefits, many brands aren’t doing this type of audience suppression, because they don’t have the ability to easily access, aggregate, analyse and organise their customer data into these different segments.

Small companies, for example, often don’t have the resources to power this kind of highly-detailed segmentation and suppression. Bigger companies might have an IT or analytics team that can extract segmented lists for them, but there’s no way to quickly and efficiently maintain and update those audience databases manually. You could always outsource this process to an agency, but you’ll still need to pay them for their services and you have the operational burden of furnishing the agency with the data they need.

So what’s the best solution? Investing in a comprehensive, easy-to-use CDP.

A CDP enables you to build these suppression audiences, feed them into your different marketing channels and cost-effectively maintain those audiences even as they grow and change over time.

The Takeaway

The bottom line: What you don’t show people is just as important as what you do show people.

A CDP makes it easy, efficient and cost-effective to harness advanced audience targeting and reduce wasteful ad spend on unsuitable customers and prospects. Businesses large and small can use a CDP to make their customer data work harder for them and, ultimately, boost the overall ROI of their ad campaigns.

Don’t believe us? Click the link below to see how the world’s largest specialty snowsports brand used their CDP to grow their email database by 85 percent and boost their campaign revenue by 94 percent.

Read the Case Study

Contributors

Author profile
President & CMO

David is the President for Lexer North America and is responsible for establishing Lexer’s business in the Americas. David has 14 years experience leading data and technology businesses across mature and emerging markets.

Residing in Los Angeles with his wife and two girls he is an avid cyclist, cook and craft beer geek.